Ithaca, N.Y. — State police are following up on leads in the decades-old cold case of Phillip Zerrillo, who died after being hit by a car in Cortland County in 1990.

The driver left the scene and was never found.

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Zerrillo’s son, Phillip Zerrillo II, was approached at a gas station in Tompkins County last year by a woman who said she knew who committed the crime. That led state police to reopen the case and put out a call for information last month.

Since then, law enforcement have received a number of tips and are pursuing them, Senior Investigator Rick Haas with the New York State Police said in an interview on Monday.

Phil Zerrillo, right, with baby Phil Zerrillo II, and mother Jennifer Hogan, left.
A newspaper clipping kept by the family. Zerrillo’s mother and step-father hung a sign after the crash asking for help.

“We have received several tips,” Haas said.

“It appears that someone out there still has information that might be useful to this case, and we are trying to garner that information.”

See related: Son approached with identity of dad’s killer after 24 years of mystery

At around 2 a.m. on May 26, 1990, Phillip Edward Zerrillo was found in the middle of Kinney Gulf Road.

He had been hit by a vehicle that knocked him “out of his sneakers,” according to his step-father.

Nobody knows how long Zerrillo was left in the road, or if he could have been saved had the driver called 911 instead of fleeing. The woman who found him on the road stayed until the end, which came a few hours later at the hospital, Zerrillo’s family says.

Phillip Zerrillo II had just turned 1 year old when the crash occurred. Twenty-four years later, his father’s death still a mystery, he was approached by a stranger at the Xtra-Mart gas station on Peruville Road in Lansing.

The woman didn’t just say that she knew who killed Zerrillo II’s father. She actually told him the name of the driver who fled, Zerrillo II said.

“I was in shock,” he told The Voice last month.

“…I asked why she didn’t come forward, and she said she was scared.”

Phillip Edward Zerrillo II holds a photo of his father, who was killed in an accident in 1990. The driver was never found. (Jeff Stein/Ithaca Voice)

The woman who approached Zerrillo II has not been identified yet, according to Senior Investigator Haas. “We’re still hoping to identify her,” Haas said.

Haas acknowledged that the statute of limitation has expired “on almost every potential crime that could have been associated with this incident,” but said that charges couldn’t be ruled out as an impossibility, either.

“We are diligently, actively pursuing these leads,” he said.

Those who have know more about the crash should call New York State Police at (607) 347-4440.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.